But while the likes of Ian Rush, Gareth Bale, Jess Fishlock and John Toshack have played and managed at the highest-level across Europe and beyond, there are many others who have left the country to pursue their footballing ambitions elsewhere. In this final feature, we take a look at a few individuals who have swapped the domestic game in Wales to travel the world to pursue their dreams in the beautiful game.
Mika Chunuonsee came through the intermediate ranks at Cardiff City and Cymru with the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Chris Gunter, representing his country at U17 level in 2006 before being released from Cardiff City the following year. Spells with Bryntirion Athletic, Neath and Afan Lido followed during the course of the next two years, but in 2009 the versatile defender returned to his father's country of Thailand having spent most of his childhood there. Signing for Muangthong United, Chunuonsee has now established himself in the Thai league after signing for Bangkok United in 2014, and became a senior international in 2015 when he made the first of seven appearances for the Thailand national team.
In May 2013, defender John Irving made history for Bala Town as he scored the only goal of the game for the Lakesiders in the UEFA Europa League play-off final against Port Talbot Town. The 1-0 victory ensured a first European campaign for Bala Town, but Irving would depart the club after the match as he made the switch to New Zealand outfit Auckland City, the side who had been crowned champions of Oceania and were preparing to compete at the FIFA World Club Cup. Auckland City would retain the OFC Champions League the following year with Irving playing a key role in their success, and would play at two FIFA World Club Cup finals before returning to Bala Town in 2015.
But while New Zealand proved to be a successful switch from the domestic game in Wales for Irving, a number of other players from the top-flight were heading to Australia. Amongst them were brothers Corey and Casey Thomas who had represented Port Talbot Town, Afan Lido and Carmarthen Town, with Casey also gaining international honours with the Cymru U19 and U21 teams before his release from Swansea City. The pair would make the switch to Moreland City in 2015 ahead of their first National Premier League campaign, with Corey remaining in Australia today.
But while making the switch abroad has been a springboard to playing success, the same applies in management. Former Barry Town, Port Talbot Town and Cymru U21 defender Darren Davies moved to Australia in 2009 to pursue his coaching ambitions, and his hard work was rewarded in 2011 when he was appointed as the youth team coach at Melbourne City. His talent was recognised as he was promoted into the coaching staff of the senior side two years later, and in 2015 he was appointed manager of the Australian U20 national team while continuing in his club role. Davies also worked with the senior Australia national team at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
A switch to Brisbane Roar as coach in 2018 proved significant for Davies, and when manager John Aloisi resigned in December that year, Davies took over as caretaker manager of the A-League side for 18 games. He remained in his post until May 2019 when he reverted back to coach to work alongside Robbie Fowler following his appointment as manager. "Over the course of the last number of weeks it's given me a belief, an appetite and a passion that I know that I can do it and I will do it at some point,” said Davies towards the end of his caretaker tenure. “I will lead the club and players until I'm told otherwise.”